Education and Health: Race and Gender Variations in the Causes and Consequences of Criminal Justice Involvement
Houston, Stacey LaMar II
The United States has experienced a dramatic growth and recent stabilization in incarceration rates. Within the past 40 years, the prison population increased five-fold. Today, the rate of incarceration in America surpasses that of any other nation in the world. The larger problem is that the distribution of criminal justice involvement is not random across individuals in the United States. This three-paper dissertation investigates school discipline as source of disproportionately high rates of incarceration and poor mental health as a subsequent outcome of criminal justice involvement. Data for Paper 1 and Paper 2 come from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 Cohort. Paper 1 explores the relationship between suspension from primary and secondary school and later chances of incarceration. In this paper, I find support for the school-to-prison pipeline; that being suspended increases odds of incarceration as a young adult but only for Black and White males. Paper 2 examines the link between having an arrest history during youth and adolescence and depressive symptoms as a young adult. I find that the stress of being arrested proliferates through alcohol use and self-rated health to increase depressive symptomatology uniquely according to race and gender. Paper 3 explores a racial/ethnic group identity as a source of racial/ethnic heterogeneity in the relationship between arrest history and mental health. Racial/ethnic group identity appears to moderate this relationship such that only individuals who have not been arrested benefit from the protective effect of having a strong racial/ethnic identity. However, this finding was true for African Americans and Whites but not Caribbean Blacks. This dissertation demonstrates that schools are a contributor to the mass incarceration problem in America and its concentration among Black males. The findings also suggest that becoming involved with the criminal justice system diminishes well-being. By investigating the relationships among school discipline, criminal justice involvement, and mental health among a relatively young sample, this work contributes to a mounting conversation on the harm of the American criminal justice system.